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Sixers Free Agency Rumors: Could Norvel Pelle get a two-way? Is Al Horford a backup plan?

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NBA: Boston Celtics at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

We are now two days away from the start of the NBA’s free agency moratorium period when teams can begin to negotiate with impending free agents (although it sounds like quite a bit of negotiating has already occurred. Looking at you Kemba Walker and Danny Ainge). At this point, there’s so many rumors flying around that it is hard to decipher what is legitimate and what is a result of agents and general managers generating fluff on behalf of their own interests. In any event, let’s dive into the word going ‘round on this Friday afternoon.

Al Horford

The Sixers have been linked to Al Horford a few times over the last week or so. This morning, Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst of ESPN suggested interest between the two parties:

In addition to teams such as the Dallas Mavericks and New Orleans Pelicans, who instantly emerged as possible landing spots, league sources say there are a few surprise bidders who are trying to land the veteran big man. These include the Sacramento Kings and Philadelphia 76ers.

[...]

Philadelphia has its own free agents to deal with, namely Tobias Harris, Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick. Maybe the 76ers re-sign their guys and are never in the market. But if they don’t re-sign all of them, they will have cap space, and they could chase Horford. Philadelphia has a wide range of options and is perhaps the most intriguing team to watch this summer.

The article notes that Horford “is in such massive demand across the league that he’s very likely to get the four-year, $100 million-plus deal he’s seeking by opting out of his deal in Boston.”

Takeaway: In a vacuum, a Horford-Embiid front court pairing is interesting. Horford often mans the center position and he can function as a stretch four as well with a respectable three-point shot, so he’s a good option as someone who can eat minutes at center when Embiid needs rest and can slide down when Embiid is active. Both Horford and Embiid are excellent, switchable defenders. Horford is an unselfish teammate, he’s a high IQ player, and he’s been in the league a long time, so there’s definitely a culture fit there as a guy who can mentor a still young core.

But the Sixers don’t operate in a vacuum. Al Horford is 33-years-old, and a four-year contract taking him to age 37 is a risky commitment to make through Joel Embiid’s prime. Add in the fact that his figure could be north of $100 million and it could be the sort of deal that ties the Sixers into a unmovable contract with a player whose abilities significantly regress over the back end. Even though the fit could theoretically work, I’m not sure you can be successful with essentially two centers on the court. Furthermore, what happens in a playoff environment if the Sixers need to take Ben Simmons off the ball? What do you do on offense when three of your five closers are Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Al Horford? How can Simmons be useful in that situation?

A four-year contract to Al Horford just doesn’t make sense for this team. Even signing him to something like a two-year deal as a backup plan should the Sixers lose out on Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris feels like a short-sighted effort to be able to spin the off-season as a win (it wouldn’t be no matter how hard Elton tried to paint it as so). The only justification for signing Horford would be that he’s taking a discount on a shorter deal and the Sixers had the worst of luck with their free agents, but apparently Horford’s market is robust.

This could all just be a result of speculation on the parts of GMs and agents, and I would imagine if the Sixers really were considering Horford, it would be somewhere on the list of their backup plans.

Link: Our Dave Early wrote about why it would be a mistake to give Horford a big deal.


Norvel Pelle

According to JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors, the Sixers could be planning to use one of their two-way contracts on Norvel Pelle:

Hearing rumblings that the Philadelphia 76ers will sign center Norvel Pelle, who was first team-defense in the @nbagleague, to a two-way contract.

@JShawNBA

This wouldn’t be too surprising as Pelle has been a part of the Sixers organization one way or another for a while now. He’s been on their Summer League roster before and he’s played three different stints on their G-League affiliate (‘13-’14, ‘14-’15 & ‘18-’19). In this past G-League campaign, Pelle’s per-36 averages were 17.5 points, 13.5 rebounds and 4.7 blocks (!) and he posted a 69.9% effective field goal mark. The Sixers may be thinking of Pelle, who is listed on the G-League website as standing 6’10” tall and weighing 231 lbs, as a possible deep bench center who is brought up from Delaware on nights when Embiid is resting.